“The Amateurs” by Sara Shepard

Sometimes you read a book and then just have to sit there for a while wondering how the hell you’re going to review it without spoiling all the best bits — and this is one of them. In my opinion, the cleverest thing about it is the ending, but it’s tricky to write about when its power is in having your mind blown by a twist you don’t see coming. (Well, I didn’t.) It follows on from a couple of others I didn’t see either, and given that I’ve got a frustrating history of guessing major plot twists based on no evidence at all, that’s pretty damn impressive.


Publication date: October 6th, 2016

So. I don’t know how to review this. I’ll do my best, but forgive me if it feels a bit incomplete and rambly. My Goodreads review was written shortly after having my mind blown by that twist at like one thirty in the morning, which for the record is a really bad time to read this book, especially when you have an overactive imagination like me. Which means it’s not a lot of use because it’s mostly in caps lock. I’m working with limited resources here, people.

Anyway. Rambling over.

Initially, I wasn’t all that into this. It features the kinda of characters who usually make me roll my eyes and mutter “#str8ppl” because seriously, just figure out your romantic drama and move on. Add to that the fact they’re mostly rich, and that’s breeding ground for sarcastic reviewing, though they’ve all got a layer of tragic backstory that makes them slightly more interesting.

However, the deeper they got into the investigation, the more intrigued I became. I’m getting more and more into crime stories these days, and while this is theoretically about a five-year-old case, it has just as many grisly details and shocking reveals as a recent one, with the benefit of hindsight and characters who are mostly over the shock so can investigate more closely.

And then things got really complicated, and while I wasn’t interested in the parties and the kissing, I was sitting there trying to puzzle out exactly who might have done it, struggling with my own forgetfulness. (I’m shockingly bad at names and details, so I easily miss small clues.) I thought I’d got it, for a while, only to be proved wrong despite having felt so clever. And when the twists came, three of them, I was totally taken aback. Now that, my friends, is skilful plotting.

As for that final twist… OH. MY. HAMLET. The ramifications of that don’t sink in straight away, but the more I think about it the creepier and cleverer it is. But seriously, so creepy. There were some late night regrets happening here.

In places the book seemed a tiny bit over the top and difficult to believe, and interactions with the police may have required slightly too much suspension of disbelief. (Or maybe I have an erroneous view of how much bureaucracy there actually is?) I also took a long time to warm up to the characters, but for one I should definitely not have warmed up to (!!!), and they still frustrated me at times. #str8ppl Though the writing was pretty decent, nothing about it blew me away, and to be honest this would probably have been a 3* read…

… but the ending shot that out of the water. DUDE. I love a good plot twist. I’ve never read anything by Sara Shepard before, although her Pretty Little Liars series was popular in the school library where I worked (well, it got stolen a lot, go figure), so I don’t know if this is her usual plotting style. But if it is, I might just have to check it out and have my mind blown in a creepy manner all over again.

*double checks locks on doors* *seriously regrets finishing this at 1.30am*

Rating: ****


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